Nearly 500 students from more than 35 classrooms "virtually" accompanied researchers from the University of Hawaii, Bishop Museum, and NOAA Fisheries on their research cruise to study mesophotic coral ecosystems. This research cruise is part of a National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science's Deep-Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies Program (Deep-CRES) and is conducted in collaboration with the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research's (OER) Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL). During this cruise, HURL hit a milestone in their history, by making their 1,000th Pisces submersible dive in the 'Au'au channel, off the island of Maui.
Mesophotic coral ecosystems—coral ecosystems that occur in the deeper half of the photic (light) zone, in this case 70 to 150 meters (approximately 230–500 feet) below the surface—support an abundant reef fauna. During the 1,000th dive, Deep-CRES scientists used the manned-submersible to study the growth rates and physiology of mesophotic reefs.
The students communicated with the Deep-CRES scientists from classrooms around the country via email updates, photos and video. This research cruise was affiliated with Creep into the Deep, a program which creates a connection between elementary through high school students, ocean research, and marine scientists.